To kick-off the LACE/ACE Fellowship program, Mexico was a natural candidate for its culturally rich relation to cacao and chocolate. Capturing the imaginations of professionals and consumers alike, Mexico or Mexican Chocolate, occupies a relevant place in the specialty chocolate industry. The study of Mexican cacao and chocolate allows for the exploration of history, symbolism, agricultural and industrial development in the Americas, economic challenges, and cultural implications for the future of both the crop and the product in Mexico and abroad.

 

As the first LACE Fellow, Jose Lopez Ganem worked to expand the appreciation and improve the understanding around both well-known and taboo issues in regards to Mexican cacao and chocolate culture. Involving domestic and international actors, the programing of the LACE Fellowship-Mexico centered on exploring the representations of products that are perceived as Mexican by international chocolate brands, advancing awareness of the material culture of chocolate consumption such as molinillos or metates, and contributed to an in-country dialogue of stakeholders aiming to standardized their products and traditions. 

 

The Covid-19 pandemic presented a major obstacle for the LACE Fellowship-Mexico. Beginning in February 2020, major disruption in travel between the United States and other regions made it impossible for public facing events such as tastings, conferences, academic lectures, and more to be completed as planned. The pace at which FCCI programing transitioned to an online format helped to preserve much programming; nevertheless, it prevented our team from engaging in person with communities. Despite the cancellation and trial-and-error dynamics of the many months of physical distancing, the final outcome of the first LACE Fellowship supported the interested public in North America and industry professionals worldwide in learning more about Mexico’s profound link to cacao and chocolate. 

 

During Lopez Ganem’s tenure as the LACE Fellow-Mexico, he completed: 

  • Seven university lectures about Mexican cacao and chocolate at Boston University, the Culinary Institute of America, Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Massachusetts-Boston, and Wellesley College. 

  • A 19-episode podcast series, the FCCI Conversation Series: Mexico featuring the opinions of expert international actors on Mexico’s brand and role within the specialty cacao and chocolate industry.

  • Three chocolate festival appearances at the New England Chocolate Festival (2019), the Craft Chocolate Experience (2020), and the Dallas Chocolate Festival (2020). 

  • Three international industry and connoisseurs talks at El Cacaotal (Lima, Peru), Green Bean-to-Bar (Tokyo, Japan), KadKokoa (Bangkok, Thailand), and MUCHO Museo de Chocolate (Mexico City, Mexico),

  • Over a dozen online presentation for a diverse pool of attendees such as the FCCI Origin Series, the Telpochcalli of Cacao and Chocolate (by La Rifa Chocolateria), #NibsofWisdom (by Well-Tempered Media), Gimme Brown (by Radical Exchange), the Fine Chocolate Industry Association Webinar Series, Mexicans in New England (by the General Consulate of Mexico in Boston), a series of engagements with the General Consulate of Mexico in Los Angeles, among others. 

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During his time as LACE Fellow-Mexico, Jose’s research was also published by academic and industry organizations in three separate occasions: 

 

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LACE Fellow: Jose Lopez Ganem 

September 2019-December 2020 

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This fellowship could not have been completed without the ongoing support of the different organizations in Mexico and globally that contribute to FCCI’s work. Always exceeding expectations, our partnerships are the single most important attribute to any successful programing.  FCCI and the LACE Fellow-Mexico would like to recognize: 

Academic Organizations

  • Boston University 

  • Culinary Institute of America 

  • Harvard University 

  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

  • UNAM – Boston Centro de Estudios Mexicanos 

  • University of Massachusetts – Boston 

  • Wellesley College 

Diplomatic Corps

  • Consulate General of Mexico in Boston, MA  

  • Consulate of Mexico in Washington D.C. 

  • Consulate General of Mexico in Dallas, TX 

  • Consulate General of Mexico in Los Angeles, CA 

  • Consulate General of Mexico in San Antonio, TX 

  • Consulate of Mexico in Washington D.C. 

  • Embassy of Mexico in Japan 

  • Embassy of the United States in Mexico

Cultural Organizations

  • Harvard Museums of Science and Culture 

  • Mexican Cultural Institute of New York

  • Mexican Cultural Institute of San Antonio 

  • Mexican Cultural Institute of Washington D.C. 

  • MUCHO Museo de Chocolate 

  • Canal 22 Internacional México 

  • Fundación Beckmann

Government Agencies

  • Federación Nacional de Productores de Cacao, Colombia 

  • Instituto de Investigación y Fomento de las Artesanías del Estado de Mexico (IIFAEM) 

  • Government of the State of Mexico 

  • ProBosque Estado de México

Chocolate and Food Businesses

  • Agrofloresta Mesoamericana (Teapa, Tabasco, Mexico) 

  • Arteollin Alonso (Santa María Rayón, State of Mexico, Mexico) 

  • Auro Chocolate (Manila, Philippines) 

  • Baianí (Sào Paulo, Brazil) 

  • Blue Door Gatherings (Holyoke, MA)

  • Bonnat Chocolatier (Voiron, Rhone-Alps, France) 

  • Cento de Inovação do Cacau (Ilhéus, Brazil) 

  • Chocovivo (Los Angeles, CA)

  • Chocolatras (Sao Paulo, Brazil) 

  • Coco André Chocolates (Dallas, TX)

  • Cuna de Piedra Chocolate (Monterrey, Nuevo León, Mexico) 

  • Craft Chocolate Experience (San Francisco, CA) 

  • Dallas Chocolate Festival (Dallas, TX) 

  • Dandelion Chocolate (San Francisco, CA) 

  • Daarenhouwer & Co. (Amsterdam, The Netherlands)

  • Dengo (Sao Paulo, Brazil)

  • ECOM Trading Cocoa (London, United Kingdom & Mexico City, CDMX, Mexico)

  • green bean-to-bar Chocolate (Nakameguro, Tokyo, Japan) 

  • KadKokoa Thailand (Bangkok, Thailand) 

  • La Rifa Chocolateria (Mexico City, CDMX, Mexico)

  • Mission Chocolate (Sao Paulo, Brazil)

  • Moolli (Mexico City, CDMX, Mexico) 

  • Original Beans (Amsterdam, The Netherlands) 

  • Puratos (Dilbeek, Belgium) 

  • Rocío Chocolates (Mexico City, CDMX, Mexico) 

  • Silva Cacao (Brussels, Belgium) 

  • Taza Chocolate (Somerville, MA) 

  • TCHO (Berkeley, CA) 

  • Tula (Holyoke, MA)

Membership Organizations

  • Fine Chocolate Industry Association (FCIA) 

  • Harvard University Mexican Student Association (HUMAS)

  • MassMex

  • New England Mexican Association (NEMA)

Individuals 

  • Adalberta Torres Contreras 

  • Alberto Fierro Garza 

  • Alejandro Campos Beltran 

  • Alicia Paramo Ortega 

  • Alma Delia Herrera Magaña 

  • Ana Beatriz Parizot Wolter 

  • Ana Rita Garcia-Lascurain 

  • Andres Manuel López Beltran 

  • Barbara del Castillo

  • Bill Guyton 

  • Carla D. Martin, PhD 

  • Chloe Lin 

  • Daniel Reza Barrientos 

  • Diana Xochitl Munn 

  • Elizabeth Bradford 

  • Emily Mantooth 

  • Emily Stone 

  • Enrique Gallindo Fentanes 

  • Enrique Perez Villareal 

  • Elisa Montiel Welti, PhD 

  • Ephi Maglaris 

  • Fausto Reyes 

  • Fernando Galvan Rubio 

  • Graciela Gomez Garcia 

  • Hugo Francisco Chavez Ayala 

  • Jaime Verde 

  • José María Pascacio Muñoz 

  • José Padilla Vega 

  • José Ramón Castillo 

  • Juan Alonso Rodríguez 

  • Juan Esteban Alonso Torres 

  • June C. Erlick 

  • Karen B. Matheny, PhD 

  • Kathryn Sampeck, PhD 

  • Kristin Egan 

  • Laura Bowman 

  • Laura Caso Barrera, PhD 

  • Lauren Heineck 

  • Luis Robledo Richards 

  • Lula Martin del Campo 

  • Marcela Celorio Mancera 

  • Maria del Carmen Barranco 

  • Matt Dixon 

  • Megan Dekok 

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Much work still needs to be done by the academic community to address the lack of evidence in preexisting narratives when approaching cacao and chocolate in Mexico and Mesoamerica, as well as to help the sector organize itself and avoid biased decisions, for example: 

 

  • Representations of pre-Columbian civilizations in the chocolate sector requires urgent further review to correctly portray the meaning and sensory profiles of some product offerings.

  • The Mexican Chocolate branding and production techniques across the Developed North will need to be discussed and updated with Mexican industry members and public/private groups, given that there is a legitimate and growing feeling within the sector to claim its name, related material culture, and sensory profiles.  

  • Mexico holds a unique position within the cacao market in that it has a prominent internal cacao and chocolate market. For those initiatives seeking to import Mexican cacao beans, the offering is wide yet varied in quality in regards to other specialty cacao producing regions in neighboring Central and South America. As the main international market turnoff, price obeys to the internal demand as well as the overall agriculture wages received by Mexican farmers across farming sectors, which tends to be better – and fairer - than in southern Mesoamerica or the Caribbean. Quality, consistency, and professionalism are other obstacles for the international customer, all points addressed inconsistently depending on the cacao purveyor; further work by local industry associations and cacao professionals to define standardization is needed. 

  • The specialty chocolate industry – in Mexico and abroad – shares enthusiasm for the potential of the country and its rapidly growing sector, with 55 chocolate companies that self-identify as fine chocolate producers in January 2021. Most agree on the pressing need to demystify the cultural properties attached to this cacao origin, its relation to gastronomic culture, and the potential financial gain that good branding could generate.

  • Greater disagreement exists in co-related global challenges that must be addressed across company size or borders such as security and safety, climate change, and income inequality. Currently signs of agreement remain elusive, notwithstanding, consequences of these issues are experienced with strong impact, often by the poorest and most vulnerable. 

 

As Lopez Ganem transitions to the next step of his academic journey, you can find him at the Gastronomy Program at Boston University, or as non-resident research fellow here at the Fine Cacao and Chocolate Institute and the Department of African and African American Studies at Harvard University. 

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“El Chocolate Artesanal en el

mundo y su situación en México”

La Rifa Chocolatería/ Telpochcalli de

Cacao y Chocolate • July 27, 2020 

“Mexican Cacao and Chocolate Culture”

Dallas Chocolate Festival • September 12, 2020

“Día Nacional del Cacao y

Chocolate en Mexico”

Consulate General of Mexico in Los Angeles, CA and Canal 22 Internacional • September 2, 2020.

“Gastro-Altar: A Binacional Celebration”

Consulate General of Mexico in Los Angeles, CA and Canal 22 Internacional • November 2, 2020.

“Chocolate: A Cultural, Historical

and Gastronomical Staple”

Consulate General of Mexico in Boston, MA.• August 8, 2020.

“Cacao y Chocolate Mexicano”

Consulate General of Mexico in Los Angeles, CA and Canal 22 Internacional • Octubre 16, 2020.

“#NibsOfWisdom with Jose Lopez Ganem”

Well-Tempered Media/Lauren Heineck • August 8, 2020